You’re probably familiar with the terms ‘web developer’ and ‘software developer’, even if you don’t fully understand what they mean. If you aren’t familiar with the world of digital technology, you might even think that they’re the same thing.

These two terms describe similar professions, but they’re not the same. In this article, we’re going in-depth to discuss the differences and similarities between both titles, including pay, job requirements, education, and more.



What is a Web Developer and What is a Software Developer?

Web developers can be understood as software engineers who build applications for the internet and create design plans. They’re primarily IT professionals who focus on the creation and design of interactive web pages. These web pages can include simple text files or complicated content. Web developers also handle the function and design of a website or web page.

Web developers are creative people who develop websites from the ground up. To do this, a web developer must be proficient in programming languages like JavaScript or Java. They should also be clear on the goals of the business, which will dictate the design of the website. If you’re considering a career as a developer, then you’ll probably want to explore what a web developer’s day looks like from start to finish. Software developers, on the other hand, are responsible for creating more complex applications and programs for computers and mobile devices. They create, conceptualize, program, document, test, and upgrade software and their components. The software developed by software developers may not always need to be hosted, while the website or webpage developed by web developers has to be hosted through the internet.  

Depending on the nature of the work, software developers can be broadly categorized as application software developers or system software developers.

Application software developers design mobile and computer applications. Their work is mostly governed by the needs and wants of consumers. Their responsibilities include developing solutions for the software, monitoring performance, and modifying applications according to the changing tastes of the consumers.

On the other hand, system software developers are professionals who operate on system-level software, network distribution software, and compilers. This is more focused on the organizations which involve developing software for industrial, medical, military, scientific, aerospace, and communication computing applications.

How to Become A Web Developer or Software Developer

Both web and software developers are dependent on writing code. With that being said, excelling as a web developer or a software developer requires a different set of skills. A web developer must have a strong knowledge of advanced JavaScript. They must also learn Bootstrap to design the fundamentals of a website. Additionally, they should be skilled enough to create websites using CSS, HTML, and JavaScript. Using code, a web developer must also be able to build a well-written, user-friendly website. To visually customize websites, it’s important that they also understand the basics of graphic design.

A software developer can excel in the field in multiple ways. An efficient software developer must be able to write code that’s clean and can be reused, tested, and read clearly. A highly professional software developer should have an understanding of the business operations of the organization; for example, the language of the business and its translation to technology. Moreover, a software developer is expected to create solutions that are scalable and, at the same time, increase profits for the company.

As opposed to web development, software development involves a broader range of skills including DevOps, which is used to unify software operation and development.

Differences in Compensation

Both professions have their own advantages and disadvantages. The average salary of a software developer is higher, but web developers tend to earn more per hour due to market demand. Web developers can also work remotely and do freelance work, so they enjoy added flexibility and are not limited to their location.

Comparatively, software developers typically secure jobs at big organizations and government offices. Their work includes close collaboration with a team of computer programmers. Their work schedule may also include long hours spent on-site working with their development team as well as company executives.

Web development includes a wider range of compensation options. Web developers can pursue a career in areas like web design, graphic design, and web art. As their experience grows, web developers can acquire more advanced positions like Senior Web Developer or Software Engineer.

Though both titles are similar, their core functions are different. In addition to their coding skills, software developers need to have adequate knowledge of the legal affairs surrounding the business. They may also be expected to handle databases.

According to the forecast of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in web development are targeted to grow by 13% between 2018 and 2028. On average, the salary of a web designer is $75,580, but this varies greatly. Comparatively, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average salary of a software developer is $103,620. However, a web developer can freelance with various companies simultaneously, adding to their income potential.

Both professions have their own pros and cons, which depend entirely on your unique priorities.

Getting Started As A Web Developer or Software Developer

If you have a creative mind and want to work with independence and flexibility, becoming a web developer may be the career for you. If you’re relatively new to the field, don’t wait around for your first paying job to gain experience. Instead, get involved in mock projects to practice your coding skills. These mock projects could include a fictitious brand, a model website, or redesigning a real site. These exercises will help you learn to write testable and efficient code.

Next, create a website to host your portfolio. In the process of building up your skills through mock projects or jobs, you can showcase your portfolio to secure paid projects.  Moreover, web development is a more feasible option than software development if you don’t have the time or money to invest in more education. If you’re interested in learning the necessary skills to become a web developer, Thinkful has flexible, high-quality education and mentorship programs to help you get there.

To choose software development as a career, you must master coding and learn the latest programming trends. Most industry professionals advise that you should avoid specializing in a programming language, as there are limited job opportunities that require a niche for a specific programmer.

Unlike web developers, software developers often have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science including knowledge of SQL Server, C++, Visual Basic, and Java. But even more important than a degree is your coding knowledge: you’ll need toou understand most of the common programming languages to get hired by the best IT companies. The broader your knowledge is, the more career options there will be.

Similar to a web developer, even if you’re employed in a firm, you must always have your own website. This website will reflect your own passion and unique value as a software developer.

It’s also important for software developers to excel at soft skills like teamwork and innovative thinking. By developing these skills, your programming goals can be communicated effectively to your teams.

Next Steps

To summarize, a software developer creates any kind of software, while a web developer builds websites or web applications. The applications produced by software developers could be client-based or client-server-based, while the latter strictly develops client-server-based applications.

Both professions are engaged with programming: software developers use languages like Python, C++, and Java, while web developers use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. If you’re interested in learning even more about the world of development, browse through our collection of software engineering career tips to get started.

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